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5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Motivated in School

You can be their biggest encourager toward success.

Part of being a parent is being your child’s biggest cheerleader, encourager, and motivator. Our kids have a lot going on in their lives, and staying motivated in school can be a challenge. It’s a responsibility and a privilege to come alongside and help them discover what motivates them.

If you study great leaders or successful people, there’s often one key common trait: they are highly self-motivated. They have clear goals, take steps to achieve them, are passionate, and aren’t crippled by failure. There are numerous theories on what causes motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, arousal-driven, or instinctual. It may be all of those or a mixture. But self-motivation is definitely a driver of success. 

You can help your child discover what motivates them personally and foster an attitude of self-motivation.

Here are 5 tips for keeping your child motivated in school:

1. Create a learning environment.

Let them know that your family takes education seriously. Help your child see themselves as a good student. See the world as an educational opportunity and find different ways to help children learn. You can help them learn in the real world by using the five senses and everyday activities (no textbook required). 

2. Stay positive.

This may seem obvious but being positive is the best way to encourage your child. Reinforce positive behavior with praise and support. Acknowledge when mistakes happen, then turn them into learning opportunities.

Researchers have found strong evidence that when students believe in themselves, they achieve more academically. The best way for your student to believe in themselves is for you to believe in them. Students care when they think that others care about them. 

3. Get involved.

According to the National PTA, the most accurate predictor of academic achievement is not socioeconomic status or how prestigious the school is that a child attends. The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involve themselves in their child’s education.

When parents are involved with their children’s school, they have the support to thrive and develop a lifelong love for learning. Showing interest in their studies, volunteering at school, and staying connected to their teacher are great examples of parental involvement. 

Children with engaged parents are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades,
  • Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education,
  • Develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom, and
  • Have better social skills and classroom behavior.

Technology has made communicating with teachers convenient, but it doesn’t replace building a relationship with your child’s teacher. Parental involvement matters more now than ever. In 2016, research showed a drop in parents who believe that parent-teacher communication is effective. Knowing your child’s teacher and making sure they know you matters. Get to know other school staff as well.

4. Don’t obsess about the future.

As a parent, I want my child to be successful, but what does that mean? Does success mean they attend a top-tier college and launch a successful career? Maybe. Does it mean they discover what they love and chase that passion? Possibly. Does it mean they find ways to positively contribute to society and make the world a better place? Absolutely! 

Your child’s education is essential, but don’t focus too much on what lies ahead. Help them discover what motivates them in school right now, and what makes them passionate. Help them see how they can contribute to their community now today. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in where we want our kids to go that we overlook living in the moment with them. 

The future is important, and we should prepare them for what lies ahead. We don’t have to sacrifice the present in the process. 

5. Reward effort.

Your child may be motivated in school by rewards, and that’s ok. Who doesn’t like a reward for a job well done? Research shows that external rewards can undermine students’ internal motivation for learning. The findings don’t mean, however, that incentives have a universally negative effect on internal motivation. In the same study, students who initially showed little interest in drawing and later received an unexpected reward for doing so chose to spend more of their free time on that activity.

Side note: It’s highly beneficial to reward effort as well as achievements. Maybe history isn’t their forte, and an average grade is the best they can achieve. If they’ve put all their effort into the work, it deserves to be recognized.

Although each student is motivated differently, if a student believes that hard work and persistence pay off, it strongly affects their motivation. Take the time to help them identify their motivators.

Sources:

The Importance of Students’ Motivation for Their Academic Achievement – Replicating and Extending Previous Findings

Motivation Matters: How New Research Can Help Teachers Boost Student Engagement

How Parent Involvement Leads to Student Success

How the Instinct Theory Explains Motivation

Other blogs:

5 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child

How To Encourage Your Child’s Strengths

5 Ways To Help Your Child Be More Confident

8 Ways Kids Are Smart

7 Expert Tips to Handle Difficult School Drop-offs

You can help your kids feel safe and secure about school.

Day one of school came, and we were ready to rock. Excited to see friends, make new friends, and launch into a new adventure. But then we got to the front door, and our kindergartner lost it. She didn’t want to go, and the tears flowed. We made it through days one, two and three, and then we were a week in. As we figured out routines for a successful school morning drop-off, each day was better than the one before.

Then, quarantines hit, and school closed for a time. We had to start the process all over again. School drop-offs can be difficult for many kids (my 5-year-old despises it). It becomes more challenging when you have to alter routines due to things out of your control, like a pandemic. 

It’s important to recognize and validate your children’s feelings. They may be anxious about a new place, new people, or the ever-changing schedule.

These tips from experts can help you  navigate school drop-offs like a pro:

1. Talk about what’s going to happen.

Know your school’s drop-off policy and where your child will go. Create a morning routine that works for your family. Also, let your child know when you’ll be back to pick them up. The more comfortable they are with the daily routine, the more likely they’ll be able to accept and even look forward to the morning drop-off.

2. Make sure everyone is rested.

Good sleep goes a long way in preparing for the day. When you’re crafting the morning routine, give yourself plenty of time to get ready too. We’ve found that we need to get up at least 30 minutes before our kindergartner to make the morning less stressful. 

3. Create a goodbye ritual.

When my son started school, we came up with a secret handshake. He looked forward to it every day, and it helped him mentally transition. My daughter has crafted her own goodbye ritual. Work with your child and come up with a goodbye ritual that makes them feel more comfortable. Maybe it’s a secret handshake or a hug at a specific spot on the way to school. 

4. Offer a comfort object.

A source of comfort can be helpful if your little one is anxious about going to school. Check with their teacher to see what they can and can’t have. Maybe it’s a small stuffed animal in their backpack they know they can’t take out during the day. Perhaps a keychain clipped onto their bag or a family picture can remind them of home.

5. Arrive early.

School mornings are stressful, and that stress level can go through the roof when you’re running late. Plan to arrive early. Schedule in a buffer time so your child isn’t feeling rushed. Whether that’s getting to the car line early, arriving at school in plenty of time to walk them to the door, or getting to the bus stop in time to talk for a few minutes. Arriving early can lower everyone’s stress levels.

6. Make it quick.

I had a friend tell me recently that when she dropped her son off for his first day of daycare, the teacher said the best thing you can do is say bye and leave. This is so true; painful, but true. The longer you linger, the harder it is on them. Often, when a child enters school, they are mentally transitioning to the day ahead. My daughter’s emotional drop-off on the first day of school only lasted a couple of minutes, and then she got busy with her day.

7. Stay positive.

Another thing you can do to help your child have a successful drop-off is to stay positive. Our stress and anxiety can quickly transfer to them. If you’re confident and optimistic, they are more likely to do the same. 

This school year looks to be full of unknowns. Each week, we don’t know how many days we’ll be in school or how our routine will be thrown off. We may experience that first-day drop-off anxiety numerous times, and we can help by being upbeat and positive. It may not be easy, but our kids don’t need easy; they need safety and security, and we can help them feel safe about school.

Sources:

How to handle difficult school drop-offs, according to a maternal wellness expert

Crying at Drop-Off – Perfecting the Preschool Separation

Other blogs:

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

8 Back to School Parenting Tips

Back to School Tips

How to Start School Routines

4 Ways Having a Routine Contributes to a Happy, Healthy Family

25 Things Parents Say When It’s Time for Kids to Go “Back to School”

If you have kids, you've probably said some of them yourself.

For many of us, it’s back-to-school time. Each time this year, we are bombarded with ads to help prepare us and our kiddos for school. 

Here are 25 things parents say (to yourself or to your kids) when it’s time to go back to school.

  1. “It’s about time!”
  2. “BYE! BYE! BYE!”
  3. “OMG, you have outgrown all of your clothes.”
  4. “I’m glad I finally get my life back.”
  5. “My grocery bill (electric bill) will go back to normal.”
  6. “Don’t make your teacher have to call me.”
  7. “Why don’t you want to go to school? You are gonna LOVE school.”
  8. “I don’t care if you don’t like that teacher.”
  9. “Did you brush your teeth?“
  10. “This backpack has to last you all year.”
  11. “There’s a fundraiser? Already?”
  12. “What’s with all these fees?”
  13. “Why does your teacher need 7 boxes of tissues?” Or: “Back in my day, all we needed was a Trapper Keeper, pencils and paper. Now, we have to buy out the store.”
  14. “I’ve got the whole house to myself! I’ve got the whole house to myself!“ (As I spin around in circles.)
  15. “Keep up with your stuff (water bottle, sweater, notebook), I’m not buying another.”
  16. “You lost it, already?!”
  17. “I can’t believe that you are in ______ grade. It seems like you were just in kindergarten.”
  18. “I can’t win without losing. My food bill goes down, but my GAS bill goes up.”
  19. “Call me Mario Andretti!!!”
  20. “These should last you all year.”
  21. I say to myself, “Do you hear that? No, what? Peace and Quiet!!!”
  22. “It’s the MOST Wonderful time of the year!!!”
  23. As they walk out the door, “Where has my baby gone?”
  24. “After last year, I’m so GLAD school is open.”
  25. “Go BE Great.”

LINKS:

Things Parents Say About Back 2 School | Back 2 School Comedy Sketch | The Mompreneur Plug

Parents Share Their Biggest Back-To-School Concerns for Fall 2020

15 Tweets That Nail How Parents Feel About Going Back to School

There is pretty much nothing more exciting and scary than thinking about crossing the threshold into your freshman year of college. Your parents won’t be telling you what time to get up or that you need to study. You can stay out as late as you like with whomever you like. Don’t feel like going to class? No problemo. The professor isn’t going to report you and your parents will never know. FREEDOM!

We asked some recent college grads what most surprised them about their freshman year, and here are some things they wished they had known:

ROOMMATES

95% of college freshmen have never shared a room with anybody, so you have to figure out how to communicate, handle conflict, respect each other’s differences and create clear boundaries. This is easier said than done, but worth the discussion for sure.

ABOUT YOUR PARENTS…

They may only be a phone call away, but they shouldn’t be coming onto campus to do your laundry, making sure you get to class, nagging you to study or setting up a party so you can get to know people. This is truly your chance to take advantage of what you’ve learned and put it into practice.

BE PREPARED TO:

  • Know how to do your laundry.
  • Live on a budget.
  • Manage your time. Don’t let the freedom go to your head.
  • Go to class.
  • Get involved in a few organizations to help you meet people.
  • Avoid the temptation to go home every weekend. 

ALCOHOL, DRUGS… AND SEX

No matter where you go to school, you might be shocked at the drug and alcohol scene. You may choose to stay away from it, but your roommate might not. (And it can definitely impact your relationship…) If you do choose to participate, don’t underestimate the kinds of things that can happen when you are under the influence. Chances are great that you will participate in behavior you otherwise would not get involved in.

Use your head. If you go to a party, get your own drink. Before you go somewhere alone, tell someone where you are going or even better – take somebody with you.

You should familiarize yourself with your college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent and know what a healthy relationship looks like. Think about your boundaries ahead of time. 

Maybe you want to do some things differently at college, or perhaps there are some friendships you know you need to leave behind.

Freshman year is an opportunity for a fresh start and greater independence. Take this time to become who you really want to be and surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. The next four years are laying a foundation for your future, and how you spend your college years really does matter.

Sometimes, truth be told, the whole thing is super overwhelming, but nobody wants to admit that’s the case. If you ever feel like you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of free resources on campus to help you adjust to campus life.

The average college student will graduate with about $37,000 in student loans, but few students really think about repaying that money after graduating. In fact, many new college students haven’t thought much at all about money management, much less paying off student loans at the end of their four years.

A survey of 455 college students by LendEdu found that:

  • 58% indicated they are not saving anything.
  • 30% indicated their parents taught them nothing about managing money.
  • 51% received no financial education in high school.
  • 43% are not tracking their spending.

Bryan Bulmer, Coordinator for Financial Wellness at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, knows this all too well. He has worked with college students to help them learn financial literacy.

“There are two kinds of students I typically see in my office: students who have been taught about money management and have grasped the concepts and those who really have never been shown the impact of money or lack thereof,” says Bulmer. 

In his student presentations, Bulmer uses a giant Jenga game to show the impact of frivolous spending. For example, buying that cup of coffee each day Monday through Friday is about $100 a month. After four years, the student will have spent $5,000 on coffee alone.

“That usually gets their attention because nobody ever thinks about how much that small amount adds up to over time,” Bulmer says. “Our goal is to help them know how to be wise with their money.”

When Bulmer asks students how many of them want to move back home after college, he says not a single hand goes up. However, 60% of them do move back home. Plus, a whopping 39% of them will still be living at home into their mid to late-20s.

Studies show that annual take-home pay for the average recent college graduate is around $36,000. Bulmer breaks this down for his students this way: If you have a car, college and credit card payments, that will probably take about $1,000. That leaves you $2,000 for everything else including rent, which is usually another $1,000.  So that leaves you only $1,000 for groceries, car insurance, internet and such.

“Pretty quickly the students begin to realize that while it sounds like a lot of money, it really isn’t if you don’t learn how to manage it well,” Bulmer says.

If you want to help your college student with their money, Bulmer suggests that you:

  • Involve the student in the family finances. Let them see what it takes to keep the lights and water on, the cost of Wi-Fi and keeping the refrigerator filled with food.
  • Talk with them about how credit works. Credit card companies are notorious for stalking freshmen and older college students with deals that are too good to be true, and plenty of them fall for it only to find themselves in debt way over their heads. They often have no idea how to get out.
  • Teach them the basics of money management (e.g. banking, paying bills, safe use of debit cards, MobilePay, ID theft and such).
  • Address student loan requirements. If your student is taking out student loans, make sure they know what this means in four years. Some students are not aware that they have student loans. This should not be a surprise to them when they graduate.

Having a college degree gives many people an advantage.

According to the National Financial Educators Council, studies show college graduates will earn almost a half-million dollars more over their lifetime than someone who has not received their college degree. But, if they have no concept of personal finances and how to manage the money they are earning, it will be of no benefit to them. 

“All of our students who come into our office that are financial literate give credit to their parents for helping them be literate,” Bulmer says. “Statistical information says 34 percent of students feel financially literate and that 37 percent of parents share financial literacy skills with their students. I believe those numbers show parents are the number one provider of financial literacy skills in the lives of their children.”

Give your kids the edge they need for future success by teaching them how to manage money wisely now, regardless of their age. 

How is it that summer just started, yet the school supplies are already out in stores? In a few short weeks that will feel like they fly by, your baby will be headed to kindergarten. At this realization, in the midst of a little freak-out and hidden tears, parents will try to put on a brave face as they leave their little one in someone else’s care. But the key to this transition is to start the school routines now!

Preparing for that day is important not only for your child, but for you as well. A month may seem like a long way off, but when it comes to establishing new routines and rituals, it’s actually the right time to put things in motion.

Bedtime:

For example, if bedtime has been at 8:30 or later during the summer months, but a 7:30 bedtime will be in place during the school year, moving bedtime up in 15-minute intervals from now until the school year starts will help your child adjust and keep the drama about it still being light outside to a minimum. As a side note, blackout curtains might be a great investment.

Routines: 

Consider what morning and evening routines will be like, especially if this is your first child to head off to school. It can be unsettling for children when everything is changing, so it’s helpful to think about routines and rituals like a security blanket. Children find real comfort in predictability. If you put things into motion now, it will help your child feel more confident on that first day of school. For instance, practice getting up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast and figuring out the best order to accomplish those tasks and any others that must be done before leaving for school. Adapting your evening routine to how things will be during the school year will help as well. 

After school: 

Being at school and holding it together all day long is exhausting. Your child might come home from school and want to take a nap or they might have a meltdown, especially as they are adjusting to their new routine. Comfort them and help them put words to their emotions. In time they will adapt and adjust.

Independence: 

Remind yourself repeatedly to let your child do for themselves what they are capable of doing. Things like dressing themselves, putting on their shoes and velcroing or tying them, going to the bathroom, pulling their pants up and even buckling a belt are important to know how to do. If they are planning to buy their lunch at school, let them practice carrying a tray with their food and drink from somewhere in the kitchen to the table. That balancing act can be a little tricky. If they are taking their lunch, teach them how to pack it themselves. If they are riding the school bus, practice walking to and from the bus stop together.

Practice:

Make practicing these things fun by turning them into a relay race or a game. When you do that, you’ll be giving them a strong foundation to stand on as they head to school.

Organization:

Work with your child to find a location in your home where all things school-related live like backpacks, homework or notes that need to be signed. Helping them get in the habit of placing things in one location will make mornings easier for everyone.

Read:

Start reading with your child daily (if you aren’t already). Even if you aren’t a fantastic reader, just holding a book, pointing out pictures, colors, numbers and words, or teaching your child to turn the pages from right to left will help prepare them for kindergarten.

Other adults:

If you have told your child they don’t have to listen to anyone but you, now is the time to change that. When your child is at school they will need to be able to listen and follow instruction from their teacher and others. Additionally, if you have never left them in someone else’s care, try to arrange some time between now and the first day of school where they are in the care of other trusted adults. It is good for them to know that others can take care of their needs, and teachers will appreciate that you have helped them practice listening and following instructions from other adults.

Technology: 

This year will be different for your child, so consider a technology plan for your home when school starts. They will be expected to sit, listen and engage in activities, but screen time  is probably the last thing they need when they get home. Instead, playing outdoors in the fresh air can help them release stress and relax.

Emotions:

While you might be excited about your little one reaching this milestone, it would also be normal for you to feel some anxiety. Most of our children can read us like a book. If you are feeling uptight about the beginning of school and trying to hold that inside, your child will likely pick up on this and think you are not OK or that you do not want them to go to school. Acknowledging that and talking with other parents who are ahead of you on the journey could be extremely helpful to you and your child. 

Thinking about all that needs to happen before school starts may feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is, if you start now, you will already have your routine down by the time school starts. Both you and your child can head into the first day of school with confidence and great expectations for the school year.

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

In 2010, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department-STEP One conducted an independent study. They found that many Hamilton County students who relied on the breakfast and lunch programs during the school year were going hungry in the summer and are in need of free summer meal programs.

“Less than 7 percent of the children enrolled in the food program through the schools were actually receiving assistance during the summer months. Several community leaders, John Bilderback, Carol Ricketts and myself realized what was happening to these children in our community, and it became our mission to do something about it,” says Rush, who is now the director of the James A. Henry Community YMCA in Chattanooga.

The USDA says that more than 12 million children in the U.S. live in “food insecure” homes.

These families don’t have enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life, according to No Kid Hungry. This doesn’t always mean there is nothing to eat, though. It can mean that children get smaller portions than they need or that parents aren’t able to afford nutritious foods.

To help feed these children, Mobile Fit began in 2011 as a partnership between the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, Hamilton County Department of School Nutrition, the Hamilton County Health Department, YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga and the YMCA of the USA.

“The YMCA of the USA had just partnered with Walmart to help YMCAs across the country address food insecurity in their community through seed grants,” says Rush. “Our group considered this prime opportunity to address the issue here locally. Our first year the YMCA opened seven sites and they served just under 200 meals a day. Through the years, however, the program has evolved and grown like crazy.”

Kids Count data for 2017 indicated there were 20,840 Hamilton County school children enrolled in the food programs.

The YMCA partners with Hamilton County Schools, Northside Neighborhood House, Girls, Inc., the Boys and Girls Clubs and many other non-profit organizations to prepare and distribute 7,000 meals a day. They come from kitchens in Hamilton, Rhea and Bradley counties. There are 130 summer sites and 87 after-school sites. Since launching in 2011, the food program has prepared and delivered more than 2 million meals. There were 750,000 in the last year alone.

“The meals get to all of the different sites in a variety of ways,” says senior program director Laura Horne. “In addition to the school-based locations and partner agencies, we have 25 Mobile Fit sites that pick up meals and deliver them to parks and apartment complexes Monday through Saturday. I love that we provide food for the children, but that’s not all we do. Children who come to eat also get to participate in activities. They learn about water safety and STEM, and we can connect both children and parents to helpful resources.”

For example, one mother of four whose husband had recently left her was having difficulty with her two older boys. The Y was also able to take the boys on a canoe trip. They also connected them to Tech Town where they attended a camp.

Packaging 7,000 meals takes a lot of hands, but it’s not just about the meal; it’s about connecting the kids with the resources they need, building trust and healthy relationships, and providing opportunities for encouragement.

“It takes about 250 volunteers to make this happen during the summer,” Horne says. “We have some volunteers who have been with us since the beginning. Small groups, religious organizations and school groups have come to help us. What I love about this program is it not only provides for people in need in our community, it also provides a place for people to give back.”

If you would like more information about this program or want to be a Food and Fun volunteer, call Laura Horne at 423-805-3361 or email her at [email protected].

Looking for relationship resources? Click here!

Many parents feel pressure to make sure their child is actually kindergarten-ready. But, are they really focusing on the things that ultimately prepare their child for future success? Before starting kindergarten, children need to know a few things, of course…

Knowing their name, being able to tie their shoes and going to the bathroom by themselves are important for sure. But did you know that social competency skills such as being able to listen, share material with others, solve problems with their classmates, cooperate and be helpful are every bit as important, perhaps more so?

Researchers from Penn State analyzed 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania. They found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Kids without these social competency skills were more likely to face negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.

The researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student’s social competency score, he or she was:

  • Twice as likely to graduate from college;
  • 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
  • 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.

For every one-point decrease in the child’s score, he or she had a:

  • 64 percent higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;
  • 67 percent higher chance of an arrest by early adulthood;
  • 52 percent higher rate of binge-drinking;
  • 82 percent higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and an
  • 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.

The research shows that high-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children well for the future. Never underestimate the importance of a stable home in the life of a child.

No matter your child’s age, you can help them learn what they really need to know. Parents and extended family, child care providers and neighbors—everyone really—can help young children develop these social-emotional skills.

Try these strategies to help children develop social/emotional competence:

  • Let them figure out how to solve their own problems (within reason).
  • Instead of making decisions for them, help them make decisions.
  • Teach them about emotions and help them understand other people’s feelings.
  • Give them opportunities to learn what it looks like to share with others.
  • Provide experiences where they can be helpful.
  • Teach them how to express themselves appropriately with direction.
  • Be intentional about giving them instructions and helping them follow through on what you asked them to do. This will serve them well when it comes to listening and following instructions in the classroom.
  • Give your child the chance to engage in activities with others where they learn to cooperate without being prompted.

Providing these opportunities is beneficial, before starting kindergarten AND far beyond kindergarten. Although it may be easier for adults to make these things happen for their children, easy isn’t always best. Step back and see what they can do—that’s some of the best kindergarten prep you could ever do.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!